This is not an article about freedom. It’s about a security panopticon inside a psychiatric hospital in Lisbon. I like to think the patients were free in their own minds, so maybe this is a bit about freedom.
The place in the lomographs was the Security Pavilion in a psychiatric hospital in Lisbon that closed in 2011: Hospital Miguel Bombarda.
In the Security Pavilion where the patients are people who had committed a crime, but were imputable by law because they suffered from mental illness. The building is among the few panopticon buildings in the world, and the only one with a open air yard in the middle meant for the patients to be able to stay outside of their rooms (or cells, if you wish) in day time.
In a way they were free, but just inside that tiny circle of rooms.
The Hospital Miguel Bombarda in it’s origin was not built to be an hospital, it was a convent of priests of S. Vincent de Paul, an eighteenth-century building then known as the Convent of Rilhafoles. In those years it hosted religious missions and then a military college.
In 1848 it was transformed into a mental hospital then called Hospital dos Alienados de Rilhafoles (or Rilhafoles’ Hospital for the Insane – for those of you not quite familiar with Portuguese). It was the first psychiatric hospital in Portugal.
A century later, the name of the hospital changed to Hospital Miguel Bombarda in honor of a late doctor who had worked and been the director of the place. Dr. Miguel Bombarda didn’t have a so-called “natural” death: he was murdered by one of his own patients inside the hospital in 1910. What’s even more coincidental is that he died in the exact day the Republican Revolution to end the monarchy in Portugal started, and above all, he wished to be involved in that movement. Some say his last words on the operation table were:
“To die like this is stupid. This night I could have died for the Republic.”
The hospital closed in 2011 with its last 24 patients transferred to another house of care. Today, it is still possible to visit it on Wednesdays and Saturdays and sometimes it hosts exhibitions of art. There’s still a museum there that was founded by Miguel Bombarda himself.
In November, when these pictures were taken, there was a photography exhibition simply called “Hospital”, that was set in the amazing Security Pavilion and showed several amazing and haunted photographs.
When you enter the panopticon building and inside that circle of rooms, it’s easy to get lost and not know which was the door you entered. It really is one of those places where you can feel the history in the air. It gives you a sense of infinity and lost of freedom.
So this article is not about freedom. But the doors are all opened.